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The president's surprise

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas recently announced that he plans to make a surprise political decision during his meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry, who was visiting the region this weekend. I asked some knowledgeable officials about what this surprise may be and they all gave me speculations as to what Abbas was planning to do. Either these officials do not know what Abbas is planning or they also want to emphasise the shock factor of what awaits.

There are those who believe that the president will hand the keys of the Palestinian Authority over to Israel, so that they may bear the responsibility of providing for Palestinians under the occupation. This action would be a follow-up to the Palestinian Authority's (PA) previous threat to those responsible for the Israeli occupation; however, many individuals still believe that this outcome would be highly unlikely because the threats I previously mentioned were verbal. More importantly, if the PA's leadership failed to dissolve the Authority at the height of the latest conflict, then it is highly unlikely they will do so now at the end of the war. Yet, it remains to be said that the solution to the problem in this regard is not to dissolve the Palestinian Authority, per se, but to re-evaluate its position, distribution and role as a liberation organisation. The PA must act as a tool through which we can achieve our national goals as opposed to being an organisation that dissolves our idea and our chances for a state.

Others believe that President Abbas will go on to sign international agreements and protocols that he has been avoiding signing or that he will try to gain membership in international organisations that the State of Palestine has yet to be admitted to. Many members of the PLO and other Palestinian political factions have sent letters to President Abbas urging him to sign various pending agreements as well as head to the International Criminal Court. Even Hamas did its part in urging this move during the two-week reconciliation since the lack of national unity could no longer have been used as an excuse. And yet, Abbas has not so much as demonstrated even a hint of remorse for his lack of action on this matter and for prolonging the signing of various agreements due to numerous American threats as well as the countless European warnings.

There are also speculations that President Abbas will cease to meet the demands that were outlined in Oslo, especially when it comes to security coordination [with Israel] after many popular and political demands to do so and after the Palestinian state was able to establish its own surveillance sector. There have been many game changers due to Israel's failure to meet the Oslo demands entirely and their lack of willingness to engage [diplomatically] in the preliminary negotiations that were part of Kerry's initiative. Within this same context, it is also highly likely that Abbas will use his international protection card and head to the United Nations, once again, to force Israel to carry out its responsibility of ending the occupation. And yet, despite all of these possibilities this route remains highly unlikely because it will open the door to many confrontations and comprehensive changes that Abbas and his leadership are not ready to face.

The surprise could also be an invitation to the US administration alone or to the international quartet to resume bilateral negotiations on a clear, concise and fair platform, one that seeks to establish a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders in addition to several land swaps. The negotiations would inevitably have to take place within a specific time frame, one that would be agreed upon from the beginning. If the US administration refuses to accept this proposal – as Abbas undoubtedly expects – he will then move forward and make his case to the UN and demand an end to the occupation and that Palestine exercise its right to sovereignty, which was agreed upon internationally.

If what I have mentioned above is in fact the expected surprise then it must be said that this is not a surprise at all. Why? Because it demonstrates our continued bet on the American administration and it is this reliance on the US that put us in this position to begin with. After all, this has been the case for decades now. The dangers of this potential surprise is that it relies on America's participation and there is no guarantee that the Palestinian leadership can rely on the American leadership and their promises, which have evaporated in the past. Moreover, there is no way to ensure Israel's commitment to ending the occupation as this plan will do nothing more than open the door to more pointless negotiations on the eve of new congressional elections as well as the possibility of new Israeli elections.

If the Palestinian leadership re-visits and approves the idea of conducting negotiations based on land swaps, it cancels out the notion of ending the occupation by force and also makes it impossible to have a geographically cohesive West Bank and Gaza Strip without Israeli interference. More importantly, Palestinian willingness to consider land swaps would legitimise the illegal process of settlement expansion. All of this would put Palestine in a position of weakness in any future negotiations and as such, Israel would evade having to bear the responsibility for its violent actions especially in light of the most recent aggression waged on the Gaza Strip, which put the Palestinian conflict at the forefront of the world stage (once again). In fact, Israel's latest war on Gaza proved the world's increasing sense of solidarity with the Palestinian cause as huge crowds engaged in protests against the occupation around the globe. The international community's boycott of Israel has been one of the few ways in which Israel has been held accountable for its actions recently and increased global participation in the BDS movement are increasingly isolating Israel.

If the US refuses to support the Arab-supported Palestinian initiative then the Palestinian leadership will have no choice but to head to the United Nations, which unfortunately would be nothing more than a failed attempt to change the rules of this old political game. It would prove to be a waste of time due to the fact that the UN is paralysed by the power of the American veto, not to mention European complicity with the Israeli occupation. Precious time would be wasted and Palestine's new opportunity amid the latest chaos in Gaza would be lost and that would mean a new catastrophe for the Palestinian people.

The question that remains is: How do we convert the challenges and aggression facing the Palestinian issue into an opportunity to accomplish new feats when ending the conflict begins with addressing the core of the problem embodied by the Israeli occupation? It would be wrong to lose the opportunity that was granted to the Palestinian leadership in light of Israel's recent aggression towards Gaza and the heroic steadfastness and resistance that the Palestinians demonstrated in the face of the violence. We must avoid participating in pointless political processes that allow Israel to evade the consequences of its actions. Instead, we should focus our efforts on effective resistance and this can be done primarily through isolating Israel via international boycotts. This would place Israel in a difficult economic situation and make it impossible for its government to continue the occupation. More importantly, Israel would no longer be a state above international law.

Palestinian efforts must require the adoption of new approaches that seek to change the current balance of power that leans heavily in Israel's favour. This can be done by achieving true national reconciliation, engaging in international boycotts of Israeli goods and institutions and joining international organisations such as the ICC. The Palestinians must be unified with a single agenda and work towards achieving the same national goals as opposed to continuing to engage in negotiations, which ultimately do nothing but prolong the conflict and give Israel more time to achieve its settler-colonial occupation. The current reality does little for the realisation of Palestinian rights including the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders.

Translated from Assafir newspaper, 26 August, 2014

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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